Ex-headmistress of top £25,000-a-year girls‘ school tells pushy parents to back off as she reveals how one distraught teen was found face-down on the floor after a GCSE A grade blighted her full set of A*s
The former headteacher of a £25,000-a-year girls‘ school has insisted that pushy parents need to back off and ‘let them go‘.
Clarissa Farr had worked at St Paul‘s school in West for 11 years before retiring in 2017, and has now revealed that pupils became so distraught with their grades, that one was even found face-down on the floor.
The prestigious school has alumnus such as Labour MP Harriet Harman and film star Rachel Weisz and charges fees of around £25,000 a year.
Now Ms Farr has revealed the pressures she faced from stressed teenagers and parents, who expected daily progress reports on their children‘s performance.
In her new book ‘The Making of Her‘, Ms Farr details how one teen was distraught after receiving an A grade in a sweep on A* GCSEs.
The book, which comes out at the end of August, describes the influence parents have and recalls how one parents was irked after their daughter got an offer from the ‘wrong‘ Oxbridge college.
She has urged parents to cling less to their children when they start secondary school and let them go.
According to , Ms Farr said that in many cases, parents who were asked to take a back seat often found it hard to do so.
She said: ‘Surely it was up to them to know everything, to smooth away all the snowdrifts blocking their path? For us parents, this learning to let go is a lifelong counterintuitive lesson.
‘Get used to the fact that you will not know everything … which means not expecting daily personal bulletins on progress, but a relationship of trust where you would feel comfortable to be in touch if you had a genuine concern or worry.‘
Ms Farr, pictured outside the school in March 2012. She worked there for 11 years before resigning in 2017
Equally, she said pupils should also be taught to not involve parents in problems at school.
Ms Farr is now a trustee of the British Museum and referred to her pupils as ‘prodigiously talented‘.
The school itself was found in 1904 by the Worshipful Company of Mercers. It used part of the endowment from the Tudor humanist and dean of St Paul‘s Cathedral, John Colet, which also funds the much older St Paul‘s Boys‘ school.
St Paul‘s faced backlash last year after it implemented an ‘austerity day‘ which saw pupils be stripped of their usual lunch treat of duck leg, and instead introduced them to humble jacket potatoes and beans.
At the time critics slammed the event and said it was insensitive, while the school said it wanted to raise pupil‘s awareness of varied economic backgrounds.
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The school has seen pupils from Sophie Rayworth and Susanna Reid to Baroness Williams of Crosby.
Ms Farr had previously also spoke of how the parents of children at school schools were terrified of their children failing and how it would reflect on them.
She also accused some high-achieving parents of neglecting their children and not showing them enough attention in the evenings.
Despite this, she said she has learnt a lot from her pupils, who once held as assembly to discuss ‘phubbing‘, where someone is trying to talk to you, but you are too busy scrolling on your phone.
Ms Farr (pictured above) said creating more grammar schools is not the way forward
She also criticised private schools for being ‘spellbound‘ by academic results.
‘In the race to attract the ‘best‘ students, fee-paying schools have become spellbound by the same academic goals and are increasingly mono-focal in their approach.
‘They see oversubscription … as a reason to select on ever more limited grounds, squeezing out the life and spirit from the vision of education that they might have had when they started. This narrowing of focus is a reflection of a more deep-seated way of looking at education and what we value.‘
In the book Ms Farr talks about giving children space, but admitted that she would privately compare St Paul‘s grades to other schools.
It doesn‘t publish its results to league tables and is currently ranked No 1 in The Sunday Times Parent Power rankings of independent secondary schools, with 90.8 per cent of A levels at A or A*.
She condemned the ‘persistent adulation of academic success and snobbery‘.
She says this has served ‘both to encourage a divided society and entrench an over-simplistic view of what constitutes a good school‘.
Speaking on politics, she said bringing back grammar schools was not the answer, but defended segregated educational institutes.
She added: ‘I don‘t believe that learning to ‘adapt‘ earlier — which all too often means learning how to play nicely, avoid appearing too clever, succeed by flirting and conform to male expectations of what you will be good at — is in the long-term what girls should be doing.
‘Whether or not the girls‘ school movement survives, and that must be a question despite the growing body of research defending the need for girls to be educated separately, there has to be continued attention paid to the education of girls, if the special talents and gifts they offer are to be brought out for the world‘s greater benefit.‘
MailOnline has ed Ms Farr‘s publisher and St Paul‘s School for comment.